ISLAMABAD: In what comes as mega blow to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the ruling camp has failed to finalise its candidate to contest for the slot of Chief Minister in Balochistan Assembly against the joint opposition’s candidate Abdul Quddus Bazinjo.
The development would have serious political repercussions for the ruling party in case Bazinjo, who belongs to Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q), manages to get elected as Leader of the House. The PML-Q has only five seats in 65-member Balochistan Assembly, compared to 21 seats of PML-N.
Political sources privy to the developments in Balochistan said PML-N leadership held marathon consultative sessions in Lahore and Islamabad to finalise a candidate but failed to do so. They blamed the number of dissident PML-N leaders in the Balochistan Assembly was the reason for the failure.
During deliberations between former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq and other senior party stalwarts, the top leadership considered a number of names for the coveted slot.
Sources also said that Sharif declined to approve the names of Sarfraz Bugti and Jan Muhammad Jamali as candidates. Both Bugti and Jamali were among the leaders who had brought the no-confidence motion against former chief minister Sanaullah Zehri.
They said that the reason of Sharif’s reluctance to put weight behind Bugti and Jamali was not that they were behind the no-confidence motion but because both the leaders openly criticised the PML-N leadership and its policies regarding Balochistan.
Other PML-N leaders whose names made rounds included Nawabzada Jangayz Marri, the son of tribal lord Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri. PML-N sources said Marri conveyed his refusal to party leadership to be a candidate for CM slot given that party’s provincial lawmakers in majority were supporting Bazinjo.
“A tribal chieftain like him (Marri) does not want to end up getting embarrassingly defeated,” said a PML-N leader regarding Marri’s decision. “This is why he decided to not to jump into the fray.”
The source said that the PML-N leadership also considered the option of elevating a leader from National Party as the CM but the NP has decided to adopt a neutral position and not to side with the government or opposition.
Some leaders from Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP),including Raheem Ziaratwal and Liaquat Agha may contest the election of the Leader of the House but sources said both the leaders do not enjoy the backing of the PML-N or the National Party (NP).
Majeed Achazkai, who could have become PkMAP’s potential candidate for the CM slot, is facing cases against him one of which involves the killing of a traffic warden due to reckless driving.
Requesting anonymity, one of the close aides of former premier Sharif who is actively involved in Balochistan’s politics, said the ruling camp also reached out to Zehri for his support in the election.
However, Zehri was not happy over lack of support from his party’s leadership in averting the no-confidence motion and refused to play any role in the elections, he informed.
Sharif not visiting Quetta ahead of a no-confidence motion against the CM Balochistan raised eyebrows among party’s rank, amidst reports that the developments related to in-house change in the provincial assembly were taking place with the silent approval of the PML-N leadership.
According to party insiders, the PML-N leadership believed that in-house change in Balochistan Assembly was easily manageable with the elevation of another party leader after Zehri’s resignation. However, the existing situation has posed serious challenges.
“It went beyond our expectations. Our leadership could not see it coming,” the party circles said. “This is a nightmare ahead of the general elections just when we needed a party leader to manage things.”
Sources said that Sharif was scheduled to visit Quetta in the recent days to make a final pick for the CM slot but after sensing hostile political environment, he deferred the plan for a few days.